Gamescom 2013: Titanfall Hands-On Preview - Next-Gen's Shining Light
Written Thursday, August 29, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
There's no doubt about it. Titanfall was above and beyond the best game at this year's E3. It was exhilarating, fresh and it was from those former Infinity Ward boys, Respawn, meaning they have the multiplayer pedigree. That was hands-off though, and as the media, we know full-well that games, especially multiplayer games, can look good until you actually get your hands-on them. Guess what? Titanfall isn't one of those games. In fact, when we sat down after the show to discuss our Top Ten Games of Gamescom feature, there was a resounding winner. That hasn't happened since… well, for quite a few years.
We were thrust into the Angel City map, amongst the masses on the show floor at this year's Gamescom. On the one team, you had the M-COR, who had to locate a missing pilot; and the other side was the IMC, who were tasked with stopping the pilot escape, that was us. First things first, it was a matter of choosing our pilot and Titan class, the two of which are completely separate.
There were three classes of pilot available on the show floor: the Assault class, who are equipped with an R101 Assault Rifle and an anti-Titan missile; the Tactical class, who have a smart pistol - able to lock onto targets and curve bullets round corners - a magnetic grenade launcher and a cloak; and the CQB class, who pack a devastatingly powerful close-range EVA-8 Shotgun and a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher.
Naturally we started off with the simple Assault class, which was a great all-round class, before experimenting with the other classes. The Tactical class has its benefits if you can master the lock-on capabilities of the smart pistol, as does the CQB class, with its powerful short-range shotgun and anti-Titan setup.
In terms of Titan classes, you've got: the Main Battle class, equipped with an anti-infantry X016 rifle and a vortex blocker that is able to stop bullets midair (think Neo in the Matrix) and turn them on their foes; the Heavy Weapons class, who's armed with a 40mm cannon and electro smoke; and the High Explosives class, who's got the devastating Sidewinder multi-rocket launcher for Titan vs. Titan showdowns.
Mixing and matching classes becomes not only a tactical choice then, but as the battle opens up it becomes a necessity. If there are multiple enemy Titans dominating the map, the CQB pilot class and High Explosives class might suit better. If there are loads of infantry running around, then it might be better to load up with a tactical pilot and the Main Battle classes.
The beauty of Titanfall, aside from the ease of its controls, is the fluency of its gameplay. The parkour jump-jet action is so addictive at times that you may even choose to stay on foot rather than call in your Titan - which is on a 60-second cooldown loop. The maps are designed so that you can effectively get from one side to the other without touching the floors. In a matter of minutes we were jetting in from the street level to the second storey of a building, running on walls, before transitioning to the roofs. This mobility is what gives the pilots an edge. There is no better satisfaction than jacking an enemy Titan after nimbly scurrying up to a rooftop and dropping in on him unaware.
Then there's the Titans… these mechs, agile mechs, something we rarely see in video games, and after stepping into one for the first time, you have to wonder why. They're powerful, quick and a ton of fun - which is surely the most important part. That said, they're ten a penny, but that's the whole point, everyone has access to them and thus, you're only a short stint away from your next Titan spawn. However, with the right equipment and a complete disregard for your surroundings, you can be taken down rather quickly, so you're not even that much of a powerhouse in the grand scheme of the battle. While powerful, you're still vulnerable, and that factors into the intensity of the action. If you're a pilot, you're steering clear of all direct one-on-one Titan combat, and when you're in a Titan, you're always on the lookout for cunning pilots looking to take advantage of your weaknesses. It's a brilliant balance and it played out perfectly across our whole experience with the Angel City map.
I think if players are looking for a narrative experience though, they might have to look elsewhere. The two times we've seen it now, we'd be hard pushed to tell you what happens and what our objectives were from a "story" perspective. It's futuristic PvP warfare and that's all you're likely to get. Sure, there might be a story bookending each map, but we know what happened when Brink tried it: no-one gave a hoot!
Titanfall's multiplayer gameplay was where it was at during Gamescom. It was fast-paced and addictive, and perfectly balanced the power and fluidity in movement of the mechs with the agility and cunning of the pilots. Most importantly, it didn't feel unbalanced - which is something I admit that I find myself shocked to admit considering it's effectively mechs against human pilots at times. If I had one criticism, which I do - you know me by now, I always have one criticism! - it's that the enemy AI that makes up both yours and your opponent's team is barely clever enough to rub two sticks together. It's like gunning down a bunch umpalumpas who've just had a lobotomy. Other than that, Titanfall really came alive at Gamescom 2013 and was easily the best game there by a country mile. If Microsoft was after a console killer-app for next-gen, then this is surely it!
Titanfall is scheduled for a Q1 2014 release on Xbox One and PC.